Sunday, April 09, 2006

Sherlock, Jr.

Metro Pictures Corp.
Director: Buster Keaton
Length: 44 min.
Country: USA
Format: 35mm
Date Viewed: 30 March, 2006

Though I recognize Buster Keaton and Clyde Bruckman's The General as Keaton's best film, Sherlock, Jr. has become my new favorite of his works.

The General has a simple yet effective story and a strong elliptical two-act screenplay with a bevy of excellent gags working for the story as opposed to existing for their own sake, and is easily one of the grand masterpieces of cinema.

Sherlock, Jr. largely eschews a story (two men's fight over a girl and a stolen watch seems to come up as most important, though it disappears for the majority of the film), and is by and large a collection of generally unconnected stunts and gags. Don't misunderstand, though; these stunts and gags are brilliant. The film is consistently and simultaneously hilarious and white-knuckle inducing, most notably during the ride on the motorcycle handlebars. At least one of the stunts is so perfect that it seems completely inexplicable in its execution - none of my friends and I who watched the film together can figure out exactly how he did the jump through the "woman." The sequence when Keaton jumps into the theater screen is another example of surprising technical perfection; the film is already 82 years old and yet I can't think of another film that pulls off such convincing fakery.

It may lack a story that holds this short film together, but it matters little when its so damn genius in all other respects. If you haven't seen this or The General, do yourself a favor and have a Buster Keaton night; these films are essential.


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